Thekuas are thick, round, nutty discs that closely resemble raisin and oatmeal cookies prepared and consumed in almost every Bihari household during the Chhat festival. Apart from Bihar, Thekuas are also popular in Uttar Pradesh and parts of Nepal.
Offered to the Hindu sun god Surya, these dry mithais are made by mixing chopped dried fruits, shredded coconut, cardamom and jaggery in a wheat flour dough and then deep-fried in ghee or clarified butter. Because of their dry and crumbly texture, these sweets can be stored for weeks without adding any preservatives. While Thekuas have now come to feature in sweetmeat shops in and across many parts of eastern India, this preparation germinated in the kitchens of humble Indian households. As per Hindu religious mandates, Thekuas meant for Chhat Puja prasad must be prepared at home and only by the members of the family. For the days leading up to the puja, the households install a special clay stove or mitti ka chulha so that every and all preparations related to the puja are made using clay stoves.
Beyond Thekuas though, there are several other types of sweetmeat and savoury dishes that are an indispensable part of the celebrations. Atta Pooris fried in ghee are served with Kaddu ki Sabzi and Hara Chana Sabzi. Then there’s Rasiyaw or rice pudding made with jaggery and Rice Laddoo, together constituting the Great Indian Chhat Puja thaali.
Apart from the religious aspect of the dish, Thekua has numerous health benefits. Jaggery or gur is the main ingredient of the snack and is a natural sweetener that provides the needed boost of sugar. Not only that, jaggery functions as an antioxidant that cleanses the liver and acts as a digestive. The selenium and zinc in the ingredient also help combat free radicals in the body. The fact that it also has dry fruits and coconut lends a high fibre content to the dish and aids in maintaining cholesterol levels in humans. From preventing anaemia to providing the perfect crunch, these desiccated cashews, almonds and the like make the cookie tastier than ones with a plain texture. The wheat in the flour acts as a rich source of Vitamins B1, B2 and B3, which have been known to have cancer-preventive benefits. The snack is also easy to conjure in any basic kitchen structure, allowing it to be easily accessible to everyone.